Global internet usage has surged in the last year mainly due to the COVID -19 pandemic,which has forced most countries to be on lockdown. There is anxiety, economic decline, job losses, deaths and a definite move to digital platforms This disruption has forced every single citizen to be a digital citizen, if not, at least consider becoming one. This is evident in the rise of internet penetration stats. According to statistics website Statista , as of Q4 2020 there are almost 4.66 billion active internet users which account for 59% of the global population, a rise from the same time in 2019 at 4.388bn, at 57% penetration.
The continuous internet adoption has brought about a huge opportunity for the Telecommunications industry. It has also highlighted the institutional voids that exist especially in developing countries and mostly has just widened the digital divide.
Regardless of the current pandemic, connectivity is a necessity and I would go further to say a human right for every individual. It levels the playing field affording a child in the most rural place of the world an access to the world that they would not physically reach. It presents access to opportunities, to knowledge and a connection to the world. The opportunity brought about is enormous and opens up the market to Internet service providers (ISP’s), Digital and Communications Companies, Online Education, E-Commerce and so forth. Observing the increase in global spend on mobile apps which has sky- rocketted to around $28billion by Q3 2020 compared to the same time in 2019, which was sitting at $23.4bn. If 91% of the population is using mobile internet, can you imagine the infrastructure required and pressure that has been put on wireless networks. This means Telecommunications companies need to be able to keep up with this growth and start to focus on meeting the current demand and be able to forecast the future usage. Telecommunications companies need to be data companies and be able to understand consumer behavior, usage patterns and customer needs so they can be able to plan ahead.
This much growth in digital adoption creates an even bigger need for faster wireless connectivity which brings the new trends in wireless technology that can enable this digital economy.:
It has not been a sailing road for the Network Operators due to the theories linking COVID-19 to 5G. These theories have fuelled a rage within communities, leading the towers and equipment being vandalised. The 5G network which promises to be a game changer in the Telecoms industry by providing users the highest speeds and will enable all the other value added services that are necessary for future digital economy.
This fifth generation wireless network (5G) is the upgrade from the 4G network and provides the fastest speeds, high reliability, low latency and can transmit large chunks of data. This makes 5G the ideal to enable the internet of Things. The reality is, there are more devices per household than there were a few years back. We have to be realistic about how much bandwidth we are consuming, how much data we are transmitting and this digital evolution needs high speed connection. We are already looking at autonomous vehicles, internet of things (IOT) and internet of everything (IOE), all this will be possible when we have technologies like 5G and beyond. I cannot wait for a time when my fridge can automatically place an order to the online shopping platform without me doing all the work or when my car can communicate with the other cars to make way as we are in a bit of hurry. These are all possibilities with 5G technology.
Another technology that promises an improvement in the performance of WIFI networks is WIF-6, which also has higher speeds and a potential to connect more devices in a single router than the current routers. In a single household, you now find someone streaming a series, another on video call while someone is playing a game, which is always the situation at my house. That doesn’t include all the other IOT devices that get connected to the same network. I’m sure you have heard the saying “ What’s worse than having no WIFI is a slow WIFI”. The frustration of trying to connect to a slow network is just annoying.. WIFI 6 also brings other benefits like security and a general improved network performance of the devices in the entire network.
All the advancements in wireless technology enable the different sectors of the economy to perform at their best. I believe WIFI is like a free way that allows all modes of transport to run on top. This is why At KONECTA ,we build these wireless networks and platforms to gather big data and enable value added services like e-commerce, advertising and marketing. We give clients the opportunity to target the right customer at the right at a right location. With every business providing free WIFI to its customers, we help these businesses get value from the free WIFI by gathering customer data so they can be able to offer personalised offers and also have a better understanding of their customer..
If there is one thing that is clear is that internet usage will keep increasing, as much as 59% of the world population is already online, there is still the 41% that is not connected and most of these are rural and marginalised communities. The socio-economic divide is evident and the digital divide is widening especially in this current COVID-19 pandemic climate. This is why we have dedicated our resources to deploying free WIFI hotspots in public transport hubs and Churches in marginalised communities in South Africa to give these communities a chance to be part of this global digital economy.
It is a long and capex intensive journey but I believe with the right partnerships and collaborations, we will be able to reach our dream that every African child growing up will have access to the internet.
By Yandisa Sokhanyile
Founder & Chief Digital Officer: KONECTA (South Africa)